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Lindzen: point by point

Filed under: — group @ 13 April 2006

Daniel Kirk-Davidoff (U. Maryland and one-time Lindzen co-author) provided a more detailed rebuttal of Lindzen’s argument in the comments to our previous post. It deserves to be more widely seen, so here it is again.

Here’s an effort at a point by point rebuttal. I would say that the central flaw in the op-ed is a logical one: if you’re trying to stifle dissent, then you want less funding for climate research, not more. If you’re trying to stop global warming, then you want more money for carbon sequestration research, and you don’t care how much is spent on climate research. On the other hand if you just love climate research as a really interesting intellectual pursuit, that’s when you’ve got an interest in shedding doubt on the reigning view that CO2-induced climate change is a serious policy program, requiring action. Twenty-five years ago, when global warming wasn’t a big public worry, one might expect climate change researchers to hype the problem. In 2006, when public opinion mostly accepts that there’s a problem, scientists who want research money should be emphasizing uncertainty.

In the opening paragraph, Lindzen states that others have claimed that there are connections between recent rare weather events and global warming, and asks where they would possibly get such an idea. It’s not clear where his astonishment comes from though. Heat waves and increased lake effect snows seem like very reasonable expectations for a warmer world. Of course, attribution of any individual such event to presently observed global temperature change can only be fractional, but it’s completely reasonable to say that events like the heat wave of 2003 will be more likely when the mean annual temperature of Europe is a few degrees warmer- this assumes only that the scatter of summer time temperature under global warming won’t be much smaller than it is now.

In his second paragraph, Lindzen makes the uncontroversial claim that society sometimes funds science to address phenomena that seem to offer a threat of harm. Using the passive voice, he asserts a feedback cycle between scientific funding and scientific alarm. This seems really odd: the publlc demand made by scientists who are most alarmed by global warming is precisely not that more money go into reasearch, but rather that money go into research to increase fuel efficiency to develope carbon-emission-free fuel sources. In fact Lindzen himself in his final paragraph seems to be calling for increased funding to address the question of climate sensitivity!

The third paragraph about drying up of funding for dissenting science has been addressed by others. I agree that I just don’t see it. The particular anecdotes I have heard about political influence on the federal grant making process go in the other direction, where people are told that they should not pubish findings supporting large climate sensitvity, at least until after some election.

The fourth paragraph is another weird one. He starts by promissing an opportunity to grasp the “complex underlying scientific issues”, but never really discusses anything complex- I take this as an effort to flatter the WSJ readers on their grasp of these erudite points, bolstering their confidence when they take on the tree-huggers at the water cooler. His rhetorical tactic here is to severely shrink the list of agreed-upon truths to those that we’ve known since 1980, while neglecting the fact that human responsibility for the 20th century warming of global temperature is quite well-established, and that various causes for alarm (for example, substantially reduced water availability in places that depend on snow-pack for their dry-season water) are also very well established. Then he moves the discussion to “outlandish” claims that contradict the “models”. This is the first use of the word “models” in the article, and gets no explanation, which is a little odd for a discussion in a newspaper. He doesn’t explain what the outlandish claims are, so we’re left to wait for the next paragraph.

Here we discover that the outlandish claims involve something about more “excitation” of extratropical storms. I’m not sure where he’s getting this- when I go to, for instance, Ross Gelbspan’s website, the only references to storms I see is to tropical storms, and to more intense rainfall generally. Both are well supported by empirical studies. The increase in rainfall intensity (shift in distribution of rain from more light events to fewer heavy events) as a consequence of global warming is a robust feature of GCMs.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got time for. It’d be nice if Lindzen gave his reader some way of checking the claims he makes about persecution- was Tennekes dismissed because he questioned the scientific underpinnings of global warming, or just after? In what context did Bert Bolin “tar” Aksel Winn-Nielsen? I think Alfonso Sutera’s recent work on baroclinic neutralization is really interesting… is there some missing strand of his research that Lindzen thinks ought to be taken up again? It’s hard to guess.

About the IRIS paper- I really can’t see what he’s complaining about. The paper was published, depite some rather “outlandish claims.” For instance, in the IRIS paper, Lindzen argues that tropical surface temperature and polar surface temperature should be assumed to vary in exactly the same way as CO2 concentrations increase. This is based on the idea that baroclinic neutralization maintains a particular critical temperature gradient, an idea that had a brief period of fashionability in 1978. In any case, there’s certainly been a lively debate about the paper, and if it’s widely viewed as “discredited”, then that’s the judgement of the climate dynamics community. If we’re a bunch of dummies, history will judge us harshly, but we can only do our best.

I see a lot of science in our community that’s being driven by curiosity. At the recent European Geophysical Union conference, there were posters on banner clouds on the Zugspitze, the role of cubic ice crystals in high cirrus formation, and the role of global cooling in the fall of the Neanderthals. Some of this research is being driven by claims that it will address climate change. So maybe this helps to solve the riddle of what Lindzen is really concerned about. People who are really concerned about climate change don’t agitate for more funding for our field- they agitate for funding for fuel efficiency research and carbon sequestration. It’s the people who like curiosity-driven research in climate dynamics who have the real incentive to argue that there’s a lot of uncertainty, because uncertainty allows people with strong intellectual curiosity to make the case that there’s at least some tangential benefit of their work to the climate sensitivity problem.

150 Responses to “Lindzen: point by point”

  1. 101
    Grant says:

    Re: #98

    I’ll correct myself. I was using data for the northern hemisphere only. I downloaded the GISTEMP data for global land+sea temperature, and the results are:
    early 20th century: 1915 – 1940, 1.3 deg.C/century
    recent data: 1973 – 2005, 1.7 deg.C/century

  2. 102
    ocean says:

    Are we assuming that all posters here are gentlemen?

    [Response: I think we’re assuming all posters are “gentlemen” in the sense of good behavior and good will, not in the sense of gender. Does somebody have a good gender-neutral term that conveys the impression of “gentlemenly,” etc? –raypierre]

  3. 103
    Eli Rabett says:

    Re 77 and 79. I too review a number of grants (as a matter of fact, I am procrastinating on a response by typing this) While one does not see

    “…a proposal that said “this work, if funded, probably won’t make much difference in the great scheme of things”. Yet I am sure that a significant proportion of research could be honestly described in that way, even a priori!”

    You don’t seen many that say it will be the end mankind if it is not funded either (been a while since I was on an NIH panel tho). What you see almost always is:

    “…This study will significantly add to our understanding of (insert problem) which is of great interest for various reasons to various parties, including those funding these grants.”

  4. 104
    David B. Benson says:

    Re #102: I prefer ‘gentlehommes’ rather than ‘ladies and gentlemen’. So strictly the answer to your question is no. But in intent, I say yes, until proven otherwise. Why do you ask?

  5. 105
    ocean says:

    Re 104: Just that I, for one, am a female scientist. But you clarified it for me, thank you. And, although I would love to claim that “ocean” is my real name, the reason I am using a pseudonym is that anonymity allows me more confidence in asking stupid questions because I am still on a learning curve with global warming on other material discussed on RC. But I am very interested and really appreciate this website.

  6. 106
    raypierre says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe references like “accelerated global warming” have mostly appeared in the popular press, not in scientific literature. I believe that what the phrase is trying to get at is either the acceleration relative to the pause in the 1950-1970 period, or the acceleration in accumulation of noticeable consequences — worldwide glacier melt, sea ice retreat, earlier onset of springtime, (possibly) increasingly intense hurricanes, Larsen-B breakup, melting of Greenland along the margins, etc. I don’t know if it’s fair to say there’s been an acceleration detected in the rate of warming (relative to the early part of the 20th century), but certainly the situation is very different from 20 years ago when one would have been hard pressed to point to any consequences that were conceivably linkable to global warming.

  7. 107
    ocean says:

    Re #102: alternatives to “gentlemen”, if we must, may be “climate enthusiast”, “colleague”?

  8. 108

    Re 103 A point that all three of you (Eli, Gavin and James) seem to be missing is that if someone submitted a proposal claiming it was to save the world he would be turned down. Anyone considering submitting such a proposal knows that. Therefore such proposals are not submitted. This has has the undesirable consequence that those scientist who are extremely worried about the state of the world cannot publish their fears. And it explains why I cannot prove this by referencing papers. No such papers exist nor could exist under the present system of peer review.

    However, I can provide some circumstantial evidence. I recently attended a meeting where James Lovelock introduced his new book “The Revenge of Gaia”. He said that when he visited the Hadley Centre (the UK world leading centre for climate change) he discovered in each room scientist deeply concerned about the danger of positive feedback leading to serious consequences. But in each room it was a different danger, and since science is now so specialised, they did not confer. It was on his journey home that he decided to write his book.

    Last september some scientists, even before the full results were known, announced that the Arctic sea ice had reached a new minimum. That is as close to panic as you are allowed to get if you are a scientist. We know that the Greenland ice is now melting. since it is being caused by global warming from carbon dioxide, the way to stop it, and prevent sea level rise, would be to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. That is politically impossible, hence sea level rise has now passed its tipping point! Will any scientist dare say that?

    The reason that no one is predicting the end of the world is because you can’t get a grant to do it, not because it is unscientific. Anyone who did try to get such a paper published would recieve the same treatment as that about which Lindzen has complained.

  9. 109
    David B. Benson says:

    Re #107: Well, if you don’t care for ‘gentlehommes’ then ‘colleagues’ will do. Surprising as this may seem to some, I’m not a ‘climate enthusiast’…

  10. 110
    Michael Wenisch says:

    Re my requests in #’s 30 and 31: Thanks to all who took the time to contribute a critique. I will make a collage of all the responses, and send it to Fr. Neuhaus, the editor-in-chief (who at least has the grace to admit that he himself doesn’t really know anything about global warming – which is why he places his trust in people like George Will!)

  11. 111
    Mark A. York says:

    What about abrupt climate change Ray? I got into that at the ice core team website and the Wood’s Hole Paper. Isn’t that accelerated of sorts?

  12. 112
    Blair Dowden says:

    Re #99 – Alistair, where do you get those figures? I assume you are using a climate sensitivity of 3 degrees, but the amplification values seem a little high. When I look at the global surface temperature chart for the past half century, I see a 0.5 degree global rise, with about 1.5 degrees over northern continents and 3 degress in the Arctic. Those ratios are smaller than yours.

    Perhaps there is an acceleration of amplification as global temperature warms. Can you point me to a reasonably simple calculation where one can derive this kind of result?

  13. 113
    ocean says:

    Gentlehommes is ok too :) It’s the intent that counts not verbiage.

  14. 114
    Mark A. York says:

    This is the best foodweb of the climate sceptics I’ve seen.

  15. 115
    pat neuman says:

    re: 108

    Mahoney has considerable leverage as “the person in command for all research money in NOAA.
    Apr 6, 2006 Washington Post article, Juliet Eilperin,

    James R. Mahoney is assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere in NOAA headquarters.

  16. 116
    James Annan says:

    I would certainly agree that the grant application process is somewhat more measured than some of the extremes that appear in the media. But still, here’s one random example from this call for proposals:

    “The intent is to increase dramatically the accuracy of computer model-based projections of future climate system response to the increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.”

    That’s not specifically alarmist but it’s certainly exaggerated, and it encourages (requires?) applicants to talk up the importance of their work. I would be interested to hear anyone’s (Gavin, Ray?) interpretation of what measurable outcomes would constitute a dramatic increase in accuracy of computer models. A halving of errors, perhaps? Or would you argue that this wording is ok because it is only an “intent” not a plausible expectation of this 5-year program?

    [Response: “Alarmism” is the process of raising unjustified concern for the purpose of gaining attention or gaining some other end. As an example, the claim that Iraq had an immediately threatening WMD program was clearly alarmism. The words “alarmism” and “alarmist” are clearly part of the skeptics new playbook, much as the words “flip-flop” were part of the Republican playbook. (To see how effective this is, I ask Democrats as well as Republicans out there what comes to mind when I say “flip-flop”). Thus, we should be careful not to play into the hands of this campaign by using the term inappropriately, or even repeating it unnecessarily. The phenomenon you are describing in the DOE call for proposals is regrettable, but something else entirely. Government agencies of all types often bid for increased funding by promising more than they can deliver, or setting unrealistic goals. Scientists who may have a more sober view of what they are actually likely to be able to do respond to the signals by also promising more than they can deliver. Somehow, out of all this mess, good science gets done anyway. In the instance you mention, it may be an admirable goal to dramatically reduce forecast uncertainties, but it is irresponsible to promise this. What’s more likely is that we’ll discover new uncertainties and gain a better appreciation for the nature of the uncertainties we know about. Grandiose and unrealistic goals are a disease DOE is particularly prey to. NSF, while not perfect, is much less programmatic, and much better. Chalk another one up for “curiosity-driven” science” –raypierre]

    [Response: I´m not at all sure what your point is here. The goal of building better models (that respond more realisitically to all sorts of forcings) is something that is perfectly reasonable. – gavin]

  17. 117
    PHEaston says:

    Re: 94. Hank, I know you were agreeing with Lee – just a little British sarcasm there. Re: 96. No, I’m not picking arbitrary start dates. As I said it was a ’round’ year. You could ignore dates and draw straight lines along each trend period (early 20th C and late 20th C), and they would be not far off parallel. Grant calculates (in 101) 1.3deg/century and 1.7 deg/century respectively – which I would agree with. In the context of the complexity of this issue, the uncertainties in the data and natural variability, this difference is not significant. Its reassuring to hear from raypierre in 106 that claims of accelerated global warming is a feature of the popular press rather than the scientific literature and that its not fair to say there’s been an acceleration detected in the rate of warming (relative to the early part of the 20th century).

    [Response: I’m just saying that I’m not aware of any claims in the scientific literature of accelerated warming (yet) in terms of trends. There’s a lot to read, and somebody else might have noticed something I haven’t. I certainly have seen references to accelerated warming in the press, and I do think what they really have in mind is something like “accelerated impacts of warming,” which would be a fairer description of what has been coming out in the scientific literature. In any event, focusing on the rate of increase in the past twenty years vs the rate of increase in the early 20th is the wrong question. The important thing is whether the observed increase is in the range yielded by the models used to predict the future, and there it’s clear that the spread of model results covers the territory. There’s no evidence in the recent record for a sensitivity greater than that covered by the models. In that regard, it’s the Cretaceous that has me worried we’re missing something, not the 20th century. The Younger Dryas also has me a bit worried. –raypierre]

  18. 118

    Re Pat’s 115. I was not writing about external censorship of the scientific view, which I am sure is much worse than most people realise. I was writing about self censorship. I was arguing that some scientists are reluctant to express their true fears because they know that their ideas will not be published, and/or ridicule will be heaped upon them.

    The pardigm of uniformitarianism is not dead, and the idea of a catastrophe is anathema to most people. Thus anyone who suggests that disaster is around the corner is labelled a ‘Chcken Little’ and their ideas are ignored.

    James Hansen has pushed his minder to one side and forced his way to the front, but he gives us ten years before we reach the tipping poiont. I am saying it is obvious that we have already passed that point, but the conservatism and self belief of the scientific establishment won’t let them see that.

    Of course, what I am saying will be described as scare mongering. But in the interests of scientific truth all possibilities should be investigated, no matter how frightening they may appear.

    Valid arguments, such as that Planck’s function should not be being used to calculate the emissions from greenhouse gas molecules, are consigned to the sci.environment rubbish bin because they are embarassing. What hope then for the plausible idea that the Arctic sea ice will disappear within the next five years, triggering an abrupt global warming of 3C.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  19. 119

    Re #122, Blair, those figures were just a rough guess. AFAIK the most accurate that I know of are those in your post :-) It seems to me that people have concentrated on calcualting the global sensitivity, but have ignored the local effects, which are the ones we will have to live with.

    I did use James Annan’s 3C as a global temperature rise, although his sensitivity would be for 540 ppm of CO2. I then used a factor of two for each of the amplifications. That agrees with your values for the mid latitude continents to polar, but you are probably correct to say my calculation for the tropics to midlatitudes is too high.

    I came across the following diagram in the IPCC TAR while researching another matter: It shows a large amplification polewards, and a low global sensitivities prior to the Eemian interglacial – more in line with what Lindzen predicts!

    Cheers, Alastair.

    [Response: I don’t understand this remark. There’s little doubt that there is a great deal of polar amplification in the Northern Hemisphere during glacial-interglacial cycles. This graph is hardly the best kind of support for that, but leaving that aside, I don’t see that it tells you anything much about “reduced sensitivity” before the Eemian (since you’d need to know the forcings to say that) and I certainly don’t see that it has any bearing on anything Lindzen has theorized about. Which Lindzen theory did you have in mind? Over the years, he’s published a number of purported global warming killers, all of which have fallen by the wayside under scrutiny. –raypierre]

  20. 120
    David Ottina says:

    Re 99: Although global averages are quoted in almost every mass media story on climate change I’ve never seen them broken out this way. This is a bit of information, that if accurate, we, the wider public could be remined of more often. I’d like to learn more – can someone point me to a resource that explains a little about how the global average is calculated.

    Also, can someone tell me why CO2 concentrations are prefered to a more inclusive number that includes other green house gasess? Does it have to do with data reliabilty or atmospheric half-life or some thing else?

  21. 121
    pete best says:

    Climate change is I am assuming “linear” in nature but at some point it would appear to me anyway “non linear” mecahnisms (normally in the form of +ve feedbacks) will kick in and hey presto the end of the world is nigh I hear doomsayers say. Now scientists could never say this, they would just say that +ve feedbacks will cause this or that to possibly happen. Hardly a reason for a Government to get excited, drop fossil fuels and develop new means of stoppng the world from ending.

    Scientists are judged by their peers and not politicians, the only time we will be doing something is either by accident such as when Oil becomes economically to expensive and hence new technologies get their chane or when a climate catastrophe happens such as many hurricanes in a single season battering the same place repeatedly and that place being significant.

    No it stands to reason that 500 to 550 ppm “linear” will happen and we had better hope that the non linear does not take over and cause tragic consequences which are unpredictable by their very nature.

  22. 122
    pat neuman says:

    re: Alastair’s 117. I think external censorship may contribute to self censorship.

    In my 2003 presentation on earlier snowmelt runoff in the Upper Midwest/ northern Great Plains, which I did while I was employed by NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) at the North Central River Forecast Center in Chanhassen, MN, I arranged for a national Press Release (PR) which was issued with my money ($500). In the PR, I included a general comment that GHG emissions were the main cause of rapid global warming based on an enormous number of well documented reports and evidence. My supervisor told me that the acting director of the NWS Central Region said that NOAA’s James R. Mahoney told others in headquarters that he wanted me fired for doing the PR, but that his NOAA lawyers advised that there was insufficient cause for removal so they gave me a suspension instead.

    I believe that I was harassed by my supervisor and others in NWS for over a year after the suspension, related to my concerns on climate and hydrologic change as that can affect hydrologic modeling which NWS river forecast centers uses for flood and water supply forecasting. Eventually, I was removed from government service (July, 2005).

    It seems clear to me now that Mr. Mahoney had a part in my removal, at least indirectly. It probably would have been better for my family if I had kept my mouth shut for a few years but I couldn’t do that (although I never used improper language or behavior in response to what I believed was harassment from NWS management, but I was not able to keep my voice from getting elevated in reply to what I felt was harassment from supervisors and some of my X coworkers at NWS NCRFC from Jan 2000 to mid July, 2005.

    In my case, perhaps self censorship due to external censorship would have made things easier for some people.

    BTW, I got the link to the Washington Post article by Juliet Eilperin in (re: 115) from the climatesciencewatch website, which has links to many other informative articles on climate politics, at:


    Earlier in the Year Snowmelt Runoff and Increasing Dewpoints for Rivers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota, Patrick J. Neuman, Snow Hydrologist, September 11, 2003

    U.S. Newswire: Senior Scientist: Rapid Global Warming is Happening Now
    10/30/2003 8:28:00 AM

  23. 123
    Eli Rabett says:

    It struck me that I know of at least one research program that was funded on the claim that life on earth would end if it were not

  24. 124
    Hank Roberts says:

    99, 112, “the best scientific guess is ….”
    I agree with Blair that Alastair’s 2nd paragraph is a very quotable, pithy summary. Those are very tempting and rare. Meaning no offense to Alastair, I’d like to see the names of the best scientific guessers who agree on that wording, before quoting it.

  25. 125
    Mark A. York says:

    In State of Fear, Crichton says GISS altered its website to show less data. Nothing before 1880, thus heightening the “appearance of a steady rise in temperatures.” Appendix II p. 639

  26. 126
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #102: I believe ocean’s remark may have been triggered by a prior use of “guys,” but certainly there have been other careless gender references made. I find that “folks” works well as a friendly collective form of address.

  27. 127
    Jim Torson says:

    Concerning the discussions of influencing public perceptions on global warming, the gentle folk here might be interested in:

    Scientist Who Spearheaded Attacks on Global Warming Science Also Directed $45 Million Tobacco Industry Effort to Hide Health Impacts of Smoking
    Former National Academy of Sciences President Admits Being Paid $585,000 by Tobacco Companies.

    This is referring to Frederick Seitz. The webpage has an audio briefing that includes Jim Hansen.

  28. 128
    David B. Benson says:

    And in today’s The New York Times, on the op-ed page is a piece by Nicolas D. Kristof entitled “The Big Burb Theory of the Apocalypse” and highlighted by the phrase “The invasion of the methane hydrates”. While the piece mentions, favorably, RealClimate and quotes Gavin Schmidt, I will again just quote one sentence: “But our political system doesn’t seem able to grapple with scientific issues like climate.”

  29. 129

    To response in response to #116, regarding the definition of “alarmism”:
    The definition looks fine, except two little things. First, what if justification of concerns is based on one-sided analysis and ignoring concepts a researcher is not familiar with? How does it make him less “alarmist”? Or is he now a “true believing stalwart”? Second, common definition of “alarmist” does not include his/her motives, see e.g.

    Regarding the RC subject, the justification does not seem to pass a major criteria – be consistent with historical records and ranges.

    Take for example the geological paleo-reconstructions based on distribution of climatically sensitive rock types:

    The set of methods does look pretty convincing. The result is that our Earth temperature always has been fluctuating +-5C around global average of +17C, regardless of CO2 levels up to 5000ppm and above. No global boiling in oceans have been identified, and no global snow coverage, so most temperature sensitive lifeforms have survived and evolved, and made it to layers and layers of sediments. How does it align with most alarming model predictions?

    One more on “alarmist” moniker: I guess the sceptics are just trying to be polite :-)


    [Response: You seem to have completely misunderstood the data on the Scotese web sit, or perhaps read your misconceptions into it. There is nothing there that implies that the massive climate fluctuations of the past (e.g. Cretaceous hothouse to Pleistocene icehouse) are independent of CO2. Much evidence in fact supports the association, and there is no viable theory at present that comes close to accounting for such transitions without invoking a substantial influence of CO2 or other greenhouse gases. (For that matter, ever heard of the Faint Young Sun problem?) I don’t know why you feel compelled to mention “no oceans boiling” since nobody with any scientific training is invoking a runaway greenhouse as a possible consequence of anthropogenic global warming (see my Venus Express post, for example). You also are clearly ignorant of the evidence for Neoproterozoic and Paleoproterozic “Snowball Earth” episodes, which not only involve near-global ice cover, but also would be followed by extremely hot postglacial climates with temperatures of 40-50C — not yet observed, but not yet ruled out by any geological deposits by any means. You have a lot to learn about climate. But, maybe I’m just being polite :) –raypierre]

  30. 130

    Re my #119 and Ray’s response

    “I came across the following diagram in the IPCC TAR while researching another matter: It shows a large amplification pole wards, and a low global sensitivities prior to the Eemian interglacial – more in line with what Lindzen predicts!
    “[Response: I don’t understand this remark.”

    The more often I read it, the more cryptic I find it, so I will try and decode what I wrote in a way that everyone can understand what I am trying to say!

    Let’s starts with this diagram from Petit et al. 1999, (which has the time axis in the opposite direction from that used in the TAR.) For the purposes of this exercise ignore the bottom graph, and note that the other two are very similar. One is a chart of Antarctic temperatures and the other is the atmospheric CO2 concentration. Both are taken from the Vostock ice core. TNote that the temperature is local but the CO2 is global because the atmosphere is always well mixed. Now returning to fig 2-23 above, the bottom graph, labeled South Atlantic SST, has a similar shape to the Antarctic temperature and CO2 graphs, so I was using that as a rough graph of global CO2.

    The second approximation I used was even cruder. I am arguing that because the area of the polar region (higher than latitude 60) is approximately a third of the area of the tropics (lower than latitude 30), then the global temperature will be dominated by that of the tropics. So the SST of the tropical Indian Ocean can be taken as rough graph of global temperature.

    Combining the bottom two graphs in the TAR, you have CO2 on the bottom and global temperature above it and it is easy to see that there is little correlation, and that the sensitivity is very variable. This is very crude, but I do think it shows that sensitivity based on ice cores alone may be an exaggeration.

    What struck me as strange was that the tropical Indian Ocean showed virtually no change in the three glacials leading up to the Eemian interglacial. In other words, it is only in the last glacial (100 kyr) that we see any change in tropical temperature corresponding to that at the poles. I can think of two reasons for that. First, it may be that the older part of the signal has been smoothed by diagenesis. Second, that Lindzen is correct and that there is a strong negative feedback effect from the clouds in the tropics, which prevents the sea surface temperatures from changing there. This last remark does not depend on the Indian Ocean SSTs being a good proxy for global temperature. However, it does mean that even if Lindzen’s Iris does exist, we in the mid latitudes are not safe from the effects of global warming.

    I hope this now makes sense :-)

  31. 131

    Re Alexi’s 129 where he uses Scotese’s graph to argue that the oceans will not boil .

    I you look at that graph, most of the time it does not fluctuate between 12C to 22C, it switches between them. The danger is that by adding CO2 to the atmosphere we will cause another switch from 12C to 22C. As Ray said, no one is arguing that the oceans will boil dry, but if you look at that chart again you will see there is a small blip where temperatures rose above 22C to 23C. That was the Permian-Triassic (PT) mass extinction when 90% of all species became extinct. If we switch the temperature to 22C and then the methane clathrates erupt, as it is suspected happened at the PT boundary, then the effect on us will be similar to the oceans boiling.


    [Response: A technical thermodynamic point of some importance: In a runaway greenhouse, the oceans do not boil. Boiling occurs when the saturation vapor pressure exceeds the total atmospheric pressure, so that bubbles can form in the interior of the fluid (the ocean, in this case). In a runaway greenhouse, enough water vapor evaporates from the ocean to keep the surface at saturation, and even if there weren’t any contribution to surface pressure from the rest of the atmosphere, this would prevent boiling. Boiling occurs in your kitchen because the water vapor escapes and can’t build up so as to increase the surface pressure. In a pressure-cooker, the water vapor stays inside, and thus allows liquid water to get arbitrarily hot without boiling — until the whole thing explodes, which is why there is that little thinghy on top which in fact limits the pressure and instead allows the water to boil at a higher temperature than normal. –raypierre]

  32. 132

    Ray re your response to 131, I would have thought that global temperatures would never reach 100C anyway. Before that could happen, the atmosphere would be so full of cloud, which would prevent solar flux reaching the surface, that the maximum surface temperature would be much less than 100C. I am curious to know whether you agree?

    [Response: Nope — look what happened to Venus. First, clouds can have a greenhouse effect that can offset their albedo effect and allow warming. Second, clouds are cause by saturation, not by the absolute amount of water. An 80 bar steam atmosphere could still have substantial clear sky patches. Kasting had one very primitive go at a radiative-convective study of the effect of clouds on runaway greenhouse, which suggested that clouds might prevent the whole ocean from going aloft. No problem getting to 100C or more, though. The cloud effects do need to be re-examined in this problem, particularly in a GCM that could do something with fractional cloud cover. But, I’m afraid we’re getting off topic. Perhaps further discussion of runaway greenhouse stuff should be moved to the Venus discussion –raypierre]

  33. 133
    raypierre says:

    Still nary a peep out of WSJ in response to the letter I submitted. Nor has anything but the most adulatory material been allowed through into the online comments on Take a look, in case there’s anybody who feels sentimental for what the Pravda letters columns used to look like – or the old show, Moscow Mailbag, hosted by Victor Posner on Radio Moscow in the 1960’s. Here are a few chestnuts from OpinionJournal. I especially like the first one. It puts Dick in the right company, so far as his claims about global warming go.

    Political Science
    Simon Jackson – Bellevue, Neb.
    I sympathize with what this scientist and his colleagues are going through. Creation scientists are even more marginalized although their work easily stands on its own scientific merits. …


    Undermining Themselves
    David W. Lincoln – Edmonton, Alberta

    The reprobates, the hacks, and the scalawags who peddle the alarmism that began in the 1970s have done a wonderful job of undermining the credibility of themselves and of those who disagree with them–all to the detriment of people on the face of the earth.

    Our Fallback Forecast
    Duane Speight – Prosperity, S.C.

    Far left agendas demand “global warming?” No problem, I can prognosticate the earth roasting to cinders in a fortnight with the “proper” data at my disposal–any weather guy could. Meterorology is an exact science only so long as you are currently looking out a window. Climatology, on the other hand, is a science of motivated hunches.

  34. 134

    In response to #129 I got this:
    [Repeat of entire response edited out. You can read it yourself under 129.]

    Nice response, thanks :-(. You seem to have completely embedded yourself into some limited paradigm such that you started to imagine certain things everywhere. Nowhere did I state in my post anything about correlation or anti-correlation between massive transitions in Earth temperature and CO2, nor any other fine time dependency. The Scotese chart implies that there are quite rigid bounds in temperature swings, _regardless_ of the global _levels_ of C02. Perhaps it is you who failed to recognize the most important implication of the Scotese reconstructions, and got lost in less essential details of partial climate stability issues. Whenever the T< ->CO2 association is supported or not, absence of a current “viable” theory is not an evidence of absense :-) .

    The reason I felt compelled to resort to the hyperbola of “boiling oceans” is simply to stress the absurdity of talks about “tipping” points and “points of no return”, especially when no appropriate model have been devised, no analysis of possible global attractors have been conducted, and no analysis of their bifurcation has been conceived. The problem has not been even clearly defined to address these issues.

    Regarding the fainted Sun, the estimation covers a period of 3.8B years, while the Scotese chart covers only about 1/4 of that, which must make some difference if you would pay attention to details, not counting for other equally contraversal explanantions like solar winds and cosmic rays stimulating cloud formation. You also need to recognize a distinction between “global” and “near-global” ice covers. And what about those ice episodes that “would be followed by extremely hot postglacial climates”? I am under impression that all current climate models can’t see farther than their nose of returning to “global equillibrium” after perturbation in “forcing”, any substantial excursions of state trajectories are dismissed as numerical errors, so the global glaciation-deglaciation episodes have no support in current global climate models. I would be delighted if this impresson is wrong.


    [Response: I stand by my original comment. You have a lot to learn about climate, and what you write above only consolidates my impression. I’ll leave it to our readers to respond any further. You could hardly describe the range of climate fluctuations of the Phanerozoic as being in a narrow range. If an increase to,say 4X CO2 were enough to cause an inexorable transition from a Holocene climate to the Cretaceous type, I think any reasonable person would call that a tipping point. I’m not saying that is the threshold, only contesting your unfounded assertion that the Scotese summary implies there are no tipping points. Some people say the Snowball did cause global sea icecover, and essentially global land ice cover. I mentioned that, and the Faint Young Sun, only to show that you are wrong in your assertion that the geological data shows that the Earth can only change in narrow ranges. The Faint Young Sun paradox cannot be resolved without the warming effect of greenhouse gases. —raypierre]

  35. 135
    Steven T. Corneliussen says:

    Concerning 133, please let me try in a new way what I urged in 76:

    It’s true that the WSJ has all of the power when it comes to controlling their own propaganda, but the increasingly internationally prominent scientists who speak in RC and elsewhere for the scientific consensus _also_ have an important kind of power. That power could be used in an effective way against the consensus-denying, alarmism-alleging WSJ.

    Several well-known names among those scientists could individually query the WSJ, in each case offering, just in a brief note, to submit an op-ed engaging the WSJ’s consensus denial and its alarmism allegations. The investment cost is low so far: no time spent crafting the proposed essays.

    In response the WSJ could, on the one hand, (1) stonewall, or (2) spurn, or (3) express interest but then stiff a submitter’s carefully crafted essay; on the other hand, it could (4) express interest and then print an op-ed essay.

    Realization of possibility 4 would be useful, obviously, in that it would mean getting past those hands that are tightly cupped over the ears of the WSJ’s powerful and influential readership.

    But any mix of the three possible kinds of negative response would be useful too. An aggregate negative response could be publicized. It would prove even to citizens who are consensus skeptics that in the several instances when scientists earnestly and honestly offered to extend the WSJ’s discussion, the WSJ ducked and dodged. It would show that the WSJ can dish it out, but won’t endure taking it — won’t allow its readers even to hear from the maligned consensus side.

    The WSJ editors control their own propaganda, it’s true, but they don’t control the international discussion, and they don’t control the truth. And what’s true — even without getting into the actual merits of the debate over the consensus — is that so far, the WSJ has sheltered its readers from consensus science’s side.

    You guys have the power to call their bluff, and I hope you use it. True, the WSJ might be too stupid to see that that’s happened or to believe that it matters. But even in the cases of possible outcomes 1, 2, or 3, much of the rest of the world — people whose attention and respect you’ve earned, but also, and crucially, people who are not quite yet with you — would get it. You don’t have to be a climate scientist to understand what’s fair in the structure of a civic debate.

  36. 136
    Lawrence McLean says:

    Some people are saying that the tripping point has already been reached, others not.
    A measurement that may go along some way to clarify this is the rate of increase in all Greenhouse gas levels (H2O, CO2, CH4 etc). CO2 is of course particulary insidious as it stays clear, it doesn’t condense out forming reflective clouds as H2O does. If measurements of the increase match what we estimate we are adding to the atmosphere, then the tripping point may not yet be reached. However, if it is accelerating and growing faster than what we are adding directly, not good!

    Are there any of these measurements being made, including the rate of increase?

    [Response: All the GHGs are measured. CO2 and CH4 and the well-mixed gases are now easy; H2O varies a good deal so is harder (see our other posts about the role of WV, though). But there is no sign of any “tipping point” in terms of GHG concentrations – any such event would come about due to non-linear effects in the climate system. Methane in particular isn’t showing any acceleration – quite the reverse – William]

  37. 137
    pat neuman says:

    Having reached a tripping point doesn’t matter that much to me because if we aren’t there yet we will be before too long anyway. It’s less like we’d get a handle on GHG emissions than get populations of undeveloped countries under control (little or no chance without a catastrophic event). What matters to me are the lives of children on earth now and their children. Slowing the rates of our GHG emissions might slow the rate of global warming a little, which could help some. We must try all we can. Those who don’t try, likely have little conscience about what they do to the lives of others.

  38. 138
    Mark A. York says:

    Ray, mine either. The letters we sent would go into the print edition. Comments online close at about noon EST of the day the piece runs so those were the only ones that Taranto et al let in that day. There won’t be any more on the Lindzen piece online. The letter should go to the letters editor and op-ed to Tunku V. for consideration.

  39. 139
    Mark A. York says:

    More misinformation by Milloy on ice cores. This stuff needs to be debunked on sight.

    Hot Air

    [Response: Its already been debunked: see Tim Lambert and Jim Easter. TL has a nice pic of the “obs” that Jaworowski is using, from which it is immeadiately obvious to anyone that the early high values are measurement error. Any skeptics trying to use this argument are going to look very stupid indeed – William]

    [Response: In fact JE has an update noting Milloys nonsense and Foxnews’s pickup… -W]

  40. 140
    Coby says:

    Re #134


    I am a little confused. You have argued with me with great conviction on other venues that the ice core records do not have great enough temporal resolution to justify saying that CO2 has not risen so high before. Yet here you using what must be an extremely coarse temperature record to make a very sweeping statement about rigid bounds in temperature swings.

    I am not sure how you can have it both ways.

  41. 141

    Regarding your comment on #134:

    I don’t know where did you find my assertion that “Scotese summary implies there are no tipping points”. You continue not to hear me for the second time. Maybe I was not clear enough, but now this is again: the Scotese chart shows boundness of the global climate attractor. True, it also shows transitions between upper and lower bounds, but you might be correct that I really hesitate to call them “tipping points”. How do you suppose to call reverse transitions, “untipping points”, or what? You also say that you are “not saying that is the threshold”, while every definition of the lousy sociological term “tipping point” has severe resemblance and is synonomous to “threshold” as it is understood in “catastrophe theory” (which is an application of more general theory of bifurcations in one-parametric families of dynamical systems). No reasonable person would consider the CO2 as independent bifurcation parameter since the CO2 is continously produced and consumed in large quantities within the “climate-generating” system depending upon interplay of other variables. Therefore, for any reasonable person the term “tipping point” is completely inapropriate for back and forth climate transitions, and usage of it does not seem to be professional.

    Then, you still insist on resolution of the Faint Young Sun paradox withing the paradigm of greenhouse gases. I already mentioned that there might be no paradox in first place (Scotese chart is way shorter than 4B years), plus you filtered out other equally speculative theories. And again, geological data presented by Scotese do show +-5C, just as I originally stated, and I haven’t put any further qualifications whether it is narrow or not, it is your straw.

    I agree that the climate topic is vast, and it is quite entertaining to learn about fuzzy methods and loose assumptions that are employed without proper justifications. I do realize that this is largely due to your inability to set up a well controlled experiment in this field, most data are eroded, undersampled, underesolved, and wide open to interpretations, time scales are way beyond the life of an observer, etc. Models require unattainable resources to yield meaningful and verifiable results. This is not your fault, the problem is just too big. However, your fault is that you have an audacity to project conclusions from primitive and deficient models (and frequently just from handwaiving about “tipping points” and “sensitivity”) to practical life. Devising finger-level models and doing ballpark estimations out of academic curiosity is quite different from advising to cut on life support.

    Since you elected not to address the issue of models capability to represent critically-important glaciation-deglaciation episodes, now I have developed an impression that certain climate scentists have to learn a lot more about possibilities that are hidden in behavior of a large and complex dynamical system.


  42. 142

    Re #140


    There is no contradiction. The CO2 bubbles are _assumed_ to have the same composition as 400,000 years ago, and I was not presented so far with any quantitative analysis of processes that can skew this composition in one or another way, that’s why there are justifiable concerns. The trace gas can rise and go in those bubbles during occlusion times, gydratization ages, depressurizing during bore sampling, etc., and this would leave no obvious traces in ice layers.

    The lithologic indicators of temperature, in contrast, are based on plants and animals that are sensitive to climate. Those organisms are sort of living thermometers, so their deposits present direct “readings” frozen at that time. The deposits either are there, or get terminated giving reasonable information about temperature bounds.

  43. 143

    Re #139 and response to it:
    I find the “debunking” is plain pathetic, especially by “Jim Easter”. His essay represents the worst case of rebuttal – he starts with political agenda, consensus, Kyoto, and then then upfront accuses Dr. Jaworowski with “extravagant claims of bias and dishonesty in the scientific community”. Then Jim Easter shreds the text into three-word chunks, and even then his debunking goes with questinable success or outright falure.

    [Response: Jaworowski knows absolutely nothing about the physics or chemistry of the preservation of the CO2 in glaciers. His arguments have no credibility whatsoever among scientists who actually know the subject. To see this, just look for Jaworowski’s name in Google Scholar or Science Citation Index. You’ll find some work on health effects of radiation, but you won’t find any peer-reviewed work on CO2. His main claims about CO2 were published in a libertarian magazine fundeed by Lyndon Larouche, not in a scientific journal. Now, go take a look at the publications of any one of the hundreds scientists involved in recovering the Antarctic gas record. Lorius, Severinghaus, Jouzel, the scientists of the EPICA group, and many more. Case closed. The fact that Milloy would claim Jaworowski’s statements (I won’t dignify them by the name of “work”) trump decades of carefully verified and cross-checked work by widely respected scientists only shows that Milloy is utterly without shame or principle. That doesn’t come as news to most of us, but sadly, it probably would be news to a great deal of the Milloy readership –raypierre]

  44. 144

    Re response to #143:
    I cannot see how the lack of publications defies validity of any citical claim, nor how does it matter where the criticizm was published. What is important is if there is any quantitative error analysis of the whole process of CO2 preservation (and occlusion, and sample extraction) in glaciers conducted and published by all those fine individuals you mention above.

    Say, can you point me to an experiment where a known atmospheric composition was mixed with a snow, then gradually compressed to proper pressure for a year or two, then abruptly de-compressed, crushed in a stainless steel chamber, and the output was analyzed and compared with the original one? It is preferred that the aging times differ so one could try to determine if there is an aging trend. It is also desirable that the compressed state lasts as close as possible to the time scales in question, unless some dimension analysis was conducted and parameters were scaled in accord of pi theorem to achieve a similar aging effect.


  45. 145
    sam says:

    Slighly OT, what magazine was that?
    AFAIK, the Libertarian Party wants nothing to do with Larouche (an known Trotsky fan). Perhaps it was merely a Libertarianesque magazine.

    [Response: The mag was 21st century . It is published by Larouche, and it was on that basis that I tagged it as “libertarian.” I know libertarians come in many flavors, and perhaps it was unjust to associate Larouche with libertarianism in general. Apropos of that, the Cato Institute magazine, Regulation this month had a really neat article in it about the fallacy of “grandfathering,” as implemented for old coal plants in the Clean Air Act. It comes out in favor of pigouvian taxes instead of grandfathering. Very intelligent analysis. On the other hand, the same issue had a Pielke Jr. article in it, in which he once more trots out the claim that because virtually the whole mainstream climate science community (which Pielke refers to loosely as “pro Kyoto” lambasted the flawed Baliunas et al Climate Research article, we all must be letting our political convictions over-ride our scientific judgement. It’s surprising to me how hard a time political scientists have understanding that correlation is not causation. Could it not be that the article was just bad science? That, on the whole, those who favor action to avert global warming are basing their convictions on sound science? I bet that you’d find an overwhelming majority of pro-Kyoto climate scientists disagreeing with Jaworowski’s stuff, too. All that tells you is that such folks can spot bogus science when they see it. –raypierre]

  46. 146

    Had to comment on the Larouche thing — from all I know of this guy, he is an extreme statist. The last time I looked (early ’80s) he wanted a crash reindustrialization program funded by the federal government and building 1,500 new nuclear power plants. For his dreams of a top-down, state-run economy plus his anti-Semitism and devotion to conspiracy theories, quite a few of his enemies on the left call him a fascist, and for once I think they may be justified.

    [Response: Having now educated myself more about the history, I regret having called Larouche a libertarian, and now find it bizarre that he is sometimes labeled as such. Mea culpa. Anyway, my point was that Jaworowski published his main claims in a non peer-reviewed magazine, and one run by a fringe organization at that. –raypierre ]

  47. 147
    Jim Dukelow says:

    I haven’t had a chance to read all of the comments in this thread, so some of my points may have already been raised.

    Rather than focus on Lindzen’s extended WSJ op-ed-whine, I comment on the original Lindzen et al. BAMS paper, Does the Earth Have an Adaptive Infrared Iris?, BAMS, v. 82, no. 3, March 2001. The quality — or lack — of that paper is central to Lindzen’s claim that he and his co-authors have been unfairly retaliated against by a climate science establishment cabal, funded, peculiarly enough, by an administration deeply hostile to the results of the cabal’s research.

    As a mathematician/engineer, not a climate scientist, I tried to read and understand Lindzen et al. and the rebuttal papers that eventually apppeared. Several things stood out.

    1) The early pages of the paper are filled — appropriately — with what I would characterize as scientific “weasel words”, phrases that capture the hypothetical and speculative nature of the paper’s assertions. “we may plausibly expect … plausible interpretation … appears to act as an iris … the possibility exists … Theoretically … it seems likely … We will attempt to account for this by normalizing … we lack supporting data comparable in time and space resolution to our cloud data, and, hence, cannot be sure that the proportionality is simple .. Since our aim is not so much to produce a definitive analysis as to obtain some idea of the existence and magnitude of the effect, we will examine a variety of possibilities … we may plausibly expect … suggests that the area effect in Figs. 5a and 5b is likely to be underestimated … A potential problem here is that area may not be a reliable measure of cumulus activity … Figs 5c and 5d suggest that a simple linear regression may not be entirely appropriate.” There are many more examples of this sort of cautious language. To a certain extent, the Conclusions section of the paper stifled the cautious language by suggesting that the possible existence of this iris effect required modifications to GCMs. Further, the GW denier community completely suppressed the speculative nature of Lindzen et al. and treated it as a thorough refutation of GCMs and the GW consensus.

    2) Early in the paper, Lindzen et al. write: “Since feedback factors are additive (see discussion in Section 4), we can examine the addition effect of feedbacks found in GCM results by simply adding their feedback factors to that of the area effect.” Well, only if the climate system is a linear dynamic system — which, of course, it isn’t.

    3) Lindzen et al. use data from the Japanese Geostationary Meteorlogical Satellite, data for the ocean portion of the rectangle 30S to 30N by 130E to 170E. The GSM is stationary on the equator at 140E. That implies the existence of data from 110E to 130E which meets the putative criteria for the Lindzen et al. analysis — open ocean NW of Australia and warm pool ocean in the Indonesian archipelago. The paper does not contain and I have not read subsequently any explanation of why this data was not used.

    4) Because of the NE corner of Australia (excluded in the Lindzen et al. analysis), the actual data analyzed by Lindzen et al. is approximately 60-65% ocean above the equator and 35-40% below the equator. Further, since Lindzen et al. used the full 17 months of data they had from the GSM archive, we have the potential for seasonality in the data. In fact, if you look at Lindzen’s et al. raw data for their strange parameter A and SST and calculate the 17-month linear regression for A(SST) = slope*SST + intercept,
    you get a slope of -0.0147. On the other hand, if you try to suppress the seasonality by looking a various 365-day windows in the data, you get slopes of -0.00955, -0.00898, -0.00997, -0.0111, -0.0105, -0.0123, and -0.0117. So looking at one-year windows in the data and suppressing seasonality eliminates from 16% to 39% of the putative iris effect, depending on which window you look at.

    5) Lindzen et al. reports a number of linear regressions, but does not report the r-square values, which give the percentage of total variation explained by the linear regression equation. By my calculations for the 17-month and one-year regressions, the explained variation is between 2.4% and 6.6%.

    6) I considered Lindzen et al. to be rather convincingly refuted by a series of papers from researchers in the Deprtment of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington (Fu et al. and other papers), by Lin et al. (J of Climate, v. 17, p. 1239) and by Chambers et al. (J of Climate, v. 15, p. 3719, 15 Dec 2002).

    Bottom line: There were several aspects of Lindzen et al. that set my non-specialist’s teeth on edge and subsequent give-and-take in the peer-reviewed literature has, I believe, refuted the original BAMS paper.

    Best regards.

    Jim Dukelow

  48. 148
    Hank Roberts says:

    28, 54
    Chicago J. International Law new volume including the Posner article Raypierre mentions is now “available” online.

    If anyone has access to a readable copy, I’d appreciate a pointer.

    Today’s Nat’l Public Radio is just covering the ‘cleaner coal’ gasification technology that Raypierre’s article recommends.

    They’re interviewing Andrew Perlman, a venture capitalist, about “Great Point Energy” at the “Gas Technology Institute” in Chicago.

    This is big leverage, the way to burn coal — source of 55 percent of electricity.

    Cracks coal, at 500 psi, 1300 deg. F, with a catalyst (proprietary) that also allows capturing half the CO2 output, producing methane as a fuel gas.

    NPR says the claims are vast, no proof outside the lab yet, DOE can’t opine until they know how it works…..
    “more at”

  49. 149

    […] the totality of that report. Surprised? Of course not. How many people wrote that document? Look up Richard Lindzen; I’m certain that’s the most prominent person that fits his description. Chuckles says […]

  50. 150

    […] Richard Lindzen is indeed respected for his previous contributions to the scientific literature. The only problem is that Lindzen now takes positions which are in no way supported by the evidence, and some of which are explicitly contradicted by a large weight of tested and verified evidence. Quite simply, his words are false, and well known to be. See for example; Lindzen’s House of Lords testimony and Lindzen point by point. […]